‘Liquid gold’: Pact starts to make hand sanitiser as shortages bite

One of Australia's biggest packaging companies, Pact Group, is converting production lines at three of its Sydney plants as it starts making hand sanitiser for the first time.

The ASX-listed company will switch over from products such as industrial cleaners to hand sanitiser in response to the surging demand for the product because of the escalating coronavirus outbreak.

Supermarket, chemist and hardware store shelves have been stripped off hand sanitiser in recent weeks as families, companies and other organisations turn to the product en-masse.

The ASX-listed packaging company Pact Group is converting three of its plants in order to make hand sanitiser for the first time.Credit:iStock

"This is right in our wheelhouse," said the chief executive officer of Pact contract manufacturing, Greg Beilby.

"I expect that we'll be full-bore from mid-April onwards. And we'll just run it as hard as we can to meet the need," he told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

The product is expected to be sold in supermarkets, chemists and hardware stores. Mr Beilby said Pact was getting "a lot of inquiries from the supermarkets", which currently don't stock Pact's hand sanitiser.

Whenever I speak to my friends no-one can get their hands on hand sanitiser. It's become the new liquid gold.

About 95 per cent of the new product is expected to be sold in Australia.

"What I'm really happy about is that we're able to meet a community need in what is a pretty dire time," Mr Beilby said. "Whenever I speak to my friends no-one can get their hands on hand sanitiser. It's become the new liquid gold."

At full production, the company expects to be making about 2 million units of hand sanitiser per month, which will be made using ingredients sourced locally and from China.

The company will package the sanitiser into 500 millilitre, 1 litre and 2 litre bottles, and 50 millilitre tubes. All of the packaging products are manufactured by Pact.

"There's no doubt it's a bit of a war footing for the country. Clearly there's a need and it's a very important need for people to have good cleanliness and hygiene. And part of that is using hand sanitiser," Mr Beilby said.

To achieve the production goal Pact will increase hours for permanent staff and casual workers.

The company will make the sanitiser at one site and package it at three other sites. Three of the four sites will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, while one will operate 24 hours a day, six days a week.

Pact has for a few years imported hand sanitiser from China, but manufacturing its own product is a major change for the group. The first batches have already been made, and some have already been sold.

Pact is the largest manufacturer of rigid plastic packaging products in Australia, and has a market capitalisation of about half a billion dollars.

Shares in Pact were up 2.8 per cent to $1.45 just after 3.45pm on Wednesday.

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